Monday, February 29, 2016

Airport Experience: Singapore Changi's Gorgeous Orchid Garden

What do you think about having a little bit of zen while travelling? I mean, who doesn't wants to slow down and smell the roses at some point? Like at the busy airports for example.

I felt obliged to say that we were not the only ones doing selfies here (defensive mode). OK, at least I do not use those awful selfie sticks (more defensive mode). 

Because travelling can be a real chaotic journey starting at the airport. Gone are those old days when going through airports was a breeze. Customs and security have become a total nightmare. Queuing up at immigration counters is not fun at all. And finding your way through an unfamiliar and huge airport to your gate can be daunting. You know, not everyone travels first class and business class, and some airports just have horrible directional signage.

I have to admit that I am one of those people who avoid spending more time that I am supposed to at airports. I always go with my rule of -- I go in and out, as quickly as possible.

However, there are certain airports that you do not mind arriving a bit earlier than scheduled, such as Singapore's Changi International Airport. Here, my parents and I were treated to a zen Orchid Garden at T2 (Transit Area). My mom went gaga with the orchids and koi pond. She has orchids herself at home and cannot pass up an opportunity to ogle at these gorgeous flowers. To prove my point -- we visited the Flower Dome at the Gardens by the Bay as well, which I will blog about later.

I also read about two other themed gardens in the airport, the Sunflower Garden and the Cactus Garden. I guess these two can wait until my next visit or transit =)

Go here: Changi Airport Nature Trail

A koi pond at the Orchid Garden.

Some zen inspiration here, helping travellers to slow down and smell the flowers, and listen to the dripping of the waters.

The lone silver white fish in the koi pond. 

Travel Period: November 2015
Destination: Changi (East Region), Singapore

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Rubensmarkt (Rubens Market) in Antwerp, Belgium

Do you know Rubens? He is the celebrated Belgian painter during the Baroque Period in the 17th century. If the Netherlands has van Gogh and Rembrandt, Belgium has Peter Paul Rubens.

So in celebration of this great Flemish painter whose roots is in Antwerp, the city has a special yearly market day every summer dedicated on his honour—the Rubens Market (Rubensmarkt in Dutch). Antwerp or Antwerpen is part of Flemish Belgium, the Dutch speaking part of the country, although I must say that they speak a different kind of Dutch here =).

Rubens was also a humanist scholar and diplomat, and was knighted by Philip IV, king of Spain and Charles I, king of England. Learn more here: Peter Paul Rubens

We were not very lucky with the weather when Dutchman and I were here last summer. It rained the whole day and we forgot to bring the umbrella sitting in the back of the car.

Before arriving in the city we also got stuck in heavy traffic due to road works. We were already wondering and having second thoughts on why we went in the first place? Can you relate on days like this? Murphy's Law I guess? But this did not deter us from making this day a success.

We scanned the market looking for some Rubens inspiration, and it seems that all the vendors were dressed in medieval garb, while the men were doing their best at emulating Rubens. There were also a few people walking around in medieval costumes. It’s a bit like carnaval in the summertime.

Oh well, it is just too bad that the weather was not on our side. The next market is scheduled on Sunday, the 15th of August 2016.

Oh, I had  a lovely mussels lunch as well (Mussels with Frites in Antwerp) in the city, which I should not forget is the reason why I dragged the poor Dutchman here.

 An antique dealer vendor emulating Rubens.

Beautiful Flemish architecture on the Grote Markt (Market Square).


Shoe shining services here from this gentleman.

Some local bread cakes for sale.


Even the Thai food stall is fully Rubens inpired.

Travel Period: August 2015
Destination: Antwerp (Flanders), Belgium

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The Beautiful Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler on the Red Wine Trail of Germany

Last year in April I went to the Ahrweiler district in the Rhineland-Palatinate region of Germany. The nearest big city is Bonn. In this district you will find the River Ahr, which is a tributary of the Rhine River and the Eifel mountains. Also in this district you will find the ‘Red Wine Trail’ of Germany.

I did a little bit of hiking on the Red Wine Trail when I got interrupted with a searing headache. So that jaunt didn’t really ended up well and I had to cut it short after reaching Dernau and having a little wine break at an old monastery ruin called Weingut Kloster Marienthal. Luckily I had a paracetamol waiting back at my hotel.

Here is the short hike I did with breaktaking vineyard views in the Ahr valley:

Red Wine Trail: Ahrweiler to Marienthal
Red Wine Trail: Marienthal, Dernau and back to Ahrweiler

The capital of Ahrweiler is the twin towns Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler and the most beautiful between the two is the medieval fortified town of Ahrweiler. I had lunch here at the Kleinertz restaurant’s outdoor terrace on the market square with the St. Laurentius/Lawrence Church as my view. I also went walking around sightseeing the town and appreciating the charming half timber houses and their characteristic architectural details.

Surprisingly, I even managed to shop, haha! I bought a little sling bag which is perfect to use when travelling. I kind of like shopping this way during my travels, unplanned and spontaneous. Whatever I buy makes a great travel souvenir.

When people ask me where I bought the little bag, I have a story to tell—‘Oh this, I bought this in Ahrweiler where you can find the Red Wine Trail of Germany.’ =)

My driving route from Utrecht, Netherlands to Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler in Ahrweiler, Germany. It is not very far.

Hope you enjoy the rest of the pictures below.

Ahrweiler is a fortified town and some of the walls and ports are still standing tall.

You can see the vineyards peeking behind the walls and houses.

The City Museum (Museum d. Stadt Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler).

The St. Lawrence Cathedral.

The busy and pretty market square.

The town has many half-timber style houses.

One of the preserved remaining gate towers.

Shopping, cafe and restaurant alleys.

And beautifully styled historical buildings.

Another one of the remaining gate towers of Ahrweiler,

The German traditional dress -- Dirndl.

I am loving the architectural details of the houses here.

Travel Period: April 2015
Destination: Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Ahrweiler (Rhineland-Platinate), Germany

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